We’re at the point of August where we start to discuss expectations for the new season.
What are the top storylines heading into training camp? Who has the hottest start to the year? How scared are the rest of the NHL of the Leafs Four Horsemen in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares?!
There’s something that’s been on my mind for a while though. It’s safe to say that the Leafs are a playoff team heading into the 2018-19 campaign. That will make it three seasons in a row where a Toronto NHL team has qualified to play games in the latter half of April. But this run feels a bit different.
The ‘start the parade’ joke that’s been associated with the Leafs may have some weight to it this time around. With Marner and Matthews in the final year of their entry-level contracts, this could be the year they truly go for that 35-pound silver thing that Ovechkin has dubbed as his new best friend.
But that may also bring something else that hasn’t been seen in a while. When is the last time the Leafs bought at the trade deadline?
Sure, Brian Boyle was brought in ahead of the 2017 playoff run for Byron Froese and a second-round pick, while Tomas Plekanec jumped on to the other side of the historic rivalry this past season for Kerby Rychel, Rinat Valiev, and a second as well. However, that’s not the buy I’m talking about. Additions they may have been, but they were filling in to be the fourth line centres.
If you look back at the history books, the last ‘big’ acquisition for the Leafs at a trade deadline was Brian Leetch ahead of the 2004 playoffs. That went kind of okay. Leetch had 8 assists helping the good buys beat Ottawa and ultimately lose to Philadelphia in the second-round for the second year in a row.
With all the expectations at the feet of the players as well as Mike Babcock and Kyle Dubas, perhaps this is the season where it happens. The forward group probably doesn’t need any more help than it already got with Tavares. The defence on the other hand is the area everyone continues to scream and argue about.
Who to go for is tricky to predict now, especially considering not a single game has been played. No one thought the Golden Knights would be successful, and they went all the way to the final. A team with a quality UFA who finds themselves out of it may be willing to part with them for the right price.
Maybe Minnesota falls out of the running completely and Paul Fenton listens to offers on someone like say, oh I don’t know, Jared Spurgeon... (going to keep beating that drum for as long as I can). It could even be someone who’s never been on the radar. Availabilities in the NHL can change in an instant and if Dubas stays on top of them, the Leafs could be on the benefiting end of it all.
Then again, by the time the deadline comes around, the Leafs may be in a position where they don’t need to add anywhere. Those big trades don’t guarantee a cup victory. The Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning walked away with some shiny new toys in Paul Stastny and Ryan McDonagh respectively, but they weren’t able to overcome the power Disney.
There’s always a risk and it’s all going to depend on how the Leafs perform up until that point. As scary as it is to part from a first-round pick or a prospect you believe in, if it can help reach that goal, it’s worth it, right?
In Case You Missed It
2018 Top 25 Under 25: #13 Carl Grundström - Pension Plan Puppets
Grundström seeks to follow in the footsteps of other successful Scandinavian wingers developing through the Leafs’ system.
Maple Leafs hirings: new positions, more scouts, and a promotion after a successful season - Pension Plan Puppets
As the summer of hiring continues, the Maple Leafs are finding new and interesting people to add to the team.
Around the Hockey World
This makes me smile so much
Patrik Laine says there's 'no rush' to sign extension with Jets - Sportsnet.ca
Winnipeg Jets fans might be in a hurry to lock up Patrick Laine to a massive extension, but Laine himself is not.
Carolina Hurricanes Revisionist History: Cam Ward, Anton Khudobin and the 2013 Goalie Infirmary - Canes Country
In a season that saw the Canes’ third-string goalie starting numerous games, what would have been different had Ward and Khudobin stayed healthy?
Ten Things We Want To See this Season #2: A Resurgence on the Penalty Kill - Raw Charge
After two seasons with a troublesome penalty kill, the Lightning are hoping different coaching can right the ship.
Total Hockey G.O.A.T.: Five Erik Karlssons versus Five Bobby Orrs, Who Wins?
I wonder which side Don Cherry would be on (he types sarcastically)
Should the Leafs buy at the deadline? (comment who you’d want)
This poll is closed
Have a good weekend Leafs fans!